Parade of Hearts: A Photoshop Layer Effect Love Story

The other day when I was thinking about ways to not acknowledge Valentine's Day, I took a heart-shaped path created in Adobe Illustrator and started applying a bunch Photoshop layer effects to it---effects I basically lifted four Deke's Techniques (and one from our friend-in-Photoshop, Nigel French)---all of which were originally designed as text effects.  

But it had occurred to me that any layer effects you pile onto text in Photoshop can be just as easily applied to a shape. For the most part, I just took the instructions from Nigel and Deke, inserted the heart-shaped path we drew in Illustrator a few weeks ago into a new shape layer, and applied the layer effects to my shape instead of text. Here are the results: 

Although reminiscent of sitting around making valentines with doilies, glitter, and glue in my youth, this was much more fun and required much less clean up. Also, my mom never let me use flames.

And any shape will do, so if you want to turn your shamrocks to gold, your easter eggs to chocolate, or set a decidedly unsuspecting snowflake on fire, you're set for every holiday as long as you can create (or find) a path shape to use. 

Read on to see my notes and get links to the video instructions I used. Note, all but one of these techniques are documented in movies that are actually unlocked for everyone at, (and if you need a free trial week for the fire project, you can sign up for one one at Read more » 

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Which Are the Best of Deke's Techniques? Colleen's Exalted Opinion (Plus Your Votes)

My beloved dekeOmaniacs: Of late, I have been asked to weigh in on my favorite of the almost-200 episodes of Deke's Techniques. Now, I pride myself on a) being an excellent judge of useful information, b) having mad curation skills, and c) being notoriously defensive of my own damn opinion. (Yes, I'm aware that these all might be the same thing.) 

But Deke has been asked to speak at a couple of very cool conferences this Spring (the Print and ePub Conference and Adobe MAX), and he's been specifically requested to share the awesome that is Deke's Techniques. So it has come to light that we might want to identify those techniques that would best benefit from a live performance thereof. Thus I bring you: 

What follows are links to my favorite episodes based on the criteria of ingenuity, usefulness, and visual appeal (plus the reality-TV-esque challenge of Deke attempting to explain them in person within his given time limit).

But let's face it, most of you are way further entrenched in day-to-day application of your Photoshop and Illustrator skills. (I, meanwhile, get paid mostly to apply my scathing wit, wordsmithery, curation skillz, and barely suppressed ego.) 

And please, for the love of awesomeness, share your favorites in the comments. Note: You can see the entire collection of Deke's Techniques at, and if your'e not a member you can get a free trial at

To get you started, here are my nominees and reasons for nominating them: Read more » 

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Another Path to Deke's Heart: Illustrator Fills and Strokes

For those of you who would love to have a nice new heart shape ready for your Valentine's Day projects, here are some lavishly step-by-step instructions for making the heart from yesterday's Deke's Techniques without those annoying lovebirds poking their perfectly round heads into my tutorial. 

Because frankly, Valentine's Day can be annoying enough without those smug, bald, fashion-challenged, yet otherwise expressionless creatures interfering. (Those two hand-holding automatons might be the universal symbol for Everything I Find to Be Wrong with Valentine's Day.) No, here are the results of my delightfully people-free expression of symmetry: 

Once again, there are no drawing skills required, so for those of you who feel about the pen tool the way I feel about Valentine's Day---i.e. something best avoided (which come to think of it is how I feel about the pen tool as well)---this is for you. Read on to see how it's done: Read more » 

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Deke's Techniques 193: Drawing an ISOTYPE Couple in Love in Illustrator

Deke's Techniques 193: Drawing an ISOTYPE Couple in Love in Illustrator

Hey kids!

Remember the universal ISOTYPE symbols from last week? How could you forget, right? They're famous from airport bathrooms everywhere. I mean, just looking at them makes you wanna pee. And they have such sparkling personalities, it makes you wanna pee some more. Plus, Colleen devoted 17 blogs posts and a PhD treatise on the topic, culminating in this universal symbol for an airport bar. I know there's another pee joke in there, but I'm beginning to disgust myself.

Tangentially, did you know Valentine's Day is just 2 weeks and 2 days away? That hateful, horrible holiday. And these two, they have so much in common. So rounded and fingerless. He sports spandex, she wear that pretty cow-bell-shaped dress. And when they look at each other with their blank circular faces, you can see the sparks fly. Because you have eyes.

So I thought, let's put these two hotties in the same document and see what happens. And you know what, not to be a spoiler, but they fall in love. Not real, actual love, mind you, but pretend, stupid love, the kind you get when you edit vector-based path outlines in Illustrator. We even get to witness the man give his heart to the lady as a bunch of strokes. Which, frankly, is messed up.

And yet this all goes to a larger point: No one needs talent to draw anymore. You just need the Appearance panel.

Coming soon: How to render the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel using nothing but Illustrator strokes. And ISOTYPE people, of course. Speaking of which, what's the universal symbol for Adam touching God's finger, when they don't have any? And how does a rounded, fingerless, faceless, everythingless character invoke that cheerful old St. Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin? Because he's a gut buster.

This is gonna be tough. See, Michelangelo's peeps are always wandering around with their junk hanging out. And my lover's got no junk.

But you know, now that I think about it, I bet you can solve that problem with lots and lots of strokes. Inside Illustrator. Read more » 

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Turning Universal Woman into Universal Martini, or Happy Hour Courtesy of Illustrator's Transform Effect

My dear dekeOphiles, it's Friday. And to celebrate a week of posts dedicated to creating universal symbols in Illustrator, I've decided to turn Wednesday's Universal Woman into a Universal Martini (which happens to be the universal symbol for finding a place to spend Happy Hour). Just as we created a woman from a man, so too will we create a martini from a woman. It's the circle of life. 

At this point, if you've followed this week's other tutorials (or watched this week's Deke's Techniques episodes), you have an inkling of how powerful, and frankly--entertaining---Illustrator's Transform Effect can be for creating these pared-down symbols of importance. I actually came up with this project as I was writing the Universal Woman tutorial. Or, at least, as I was thinking about writing it while on a plane. Which may have something to do with my thinking of cocktails at the time. Which---in turn---may have something to do with why I was only thinking about writing, and not actually writing it. 

But the point, if I have one, is that spending a week doing hands-on projects with the Transform Effect has not only made me uncharacteristically confident with Illustrator (or at least one feature of Illustrator), but it's also awakened that part of my brain that sees things with a creative, open mind. That may be even more important than actually having handy universal symbols for anything.

So, for both your Happy Hour and your Creative Spirit needs, here are the steps: Read more » 

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